A police officer has been left paralysed from the chest down after being kicked in the back by a drunken woman he was taking into custody.
Police Constable Darren Triggs, 36, needed emergency spinal surgery after a blood clot was found on his spine just weeks before his wife Rosie was due to give birth to their third child.
He’d been kicked by a drunken woman while he drove her to a police station to place her in custody last December, and even though he had a bruise Darren, 36, didn’t think it was anything serious.
But the Sussex Police officer of 12 years woke his wife up four days after being struck fearing he was suffering a heart attack while telling her his legs and feet were completely numb.
Hours later the shocked couple, who have three daughters, were told the response officer - who was sent to 999 call outs - was paralysed from the chest down and would never walk again.
Darren watched Rosie give birth to their baby Phoebe in February at the same hospital where he was recovering in, having intensive physiotherapy to prepare him for life in a wheelchair.
‘Our lives have been turned upside down,’ Rosie, 34, who works in marketing, said in an exclusive interview with FEMAIL. ‘We’re both in absolute shock. We’d been both busy at work but were so excited to have another baby.
Darren showed me the bruise after the kick and you could clearly see it. He wasn’t in too much pain so we forgot about it.
‘But early in the morning four days later he woke up with a pain in his chest. He was worried about a heart attack while I thought he had a trapped nerve but then he was saying his legs were completely numb.
‘He was sitting up and asked me to lay him down and I noticed his toe was pressed up against the bed in a position where it would begin to mark and bruise.
‘He was completely unaware of it and that is when I realised something serious was wrong. I organised for him to go to hospital before I later got the girls ready and dropped them off at nursery and school.’
A back scan at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester revealed the blood clot, which filled his entire spinal column, and an ambulance was called to transfer Darren to Southampton Hospital urgently.
Rosie says: ‘I was petrified about giving birth because my heart was broken for my husband. He loved being a police officer and helping people.
‘He has broken down a couple of times. But that is only because of how much he was missing our girls rather than his injury.
‘His main concern was not being the dad he wanted to be, out playing with the girls and taking them everywhere.
'I think it really hit home that this is a long-term life change when we had to start talking about adapting the house for when he is allowed back. He has been so resilient and strong which is just amazing.’
Darren and Rosie, from Fishbourne, West Sussex, are parents to Daisy, five, who has Down Syndrome, Amelie, two and Phoebe, who is 10 weeks old.
‘Luckily Amelie is too young to know what’s happening but I had to explain to Daisy as she was missing Darren, ‘ Rosie says. ‘I told her Daddy had hurt his back and was going to have to live in hospital for a little while.
‘I drew pictures of Daddy in his wheelchair and said this is him in the hospital. I then drew pictures of Daisy visiting him and saying goodbye and of us coming home while Daddy stays. She accepted that.’
Darren has been in hospital since being admitted on December 3, 2019 and is unable to return home until house adaptations are completed at their two storey house.
Rosie admits she was initially irritated when Darren woke her up in the early hours complaining that he couldn’t feel his feet.
‘We’d had such a lovely family day at the Weald and Downland Living Museum in West Sussex,’ she says. ‘But when he woke me I wasn’t very sympathetic. Being a seven month pregnant woman meant I was not in the best of moods.’
But when Darren said he couldn’t feel his legs Rosie began to get seriously worried and called an ambulance before he was taken to hospital.
A back scan revealed the ‘huge’ blood clot in his spine before he was urgently transferred to Southampton Hospital for the surgery.
‘I arrived just as they were whisking him away,’ Rosie says. ‘The surgeon said it wasn’t going to bring the sensation back in his legs and that it was to prevent further damage.
That is when we found out he was paralysed. I struggled to take in the words. I was crying immediately and was telling myself over and over that the surgeons must be wrong and my husband would one day walk again.
‘Darren was remarkably calm and strong and he said he realised before being told that he would never use his legs again. I paced the corridors for two hours and was pulled into a room by the surgeon after the operation.
‘He told me to be strong and to put on a brave face for Darren. I remember going into him in ICU and he had to be completely flat on his back. I pretended to be weirdly positive and happy and smiled and tried not to cry. We didn’t speak about his situation and it was very surreal.’
Darren was eventually moved to a spinal ward a week later before being transferred back to St Richards to undergo physio.
Rosie says: ‘On Christmas morning I took the girls stockings down to the hospital to open on his bed. We then went to my parents Andrew, 72 and Linda, 69 for Christmas dinner and I went back then to spend the evening with him.
‘We had a pizza party by his bed on New Years and before I gave birth we were allowed to leave the hospital to go to a cafe with Darren in his wheelchair. It was nice to do something normal.’
Darren was strong enough to be wheeled to the maternity ward to see his wife give birth on February 4.
‘It was so special,’ Rosie says. ‘After weeks of devastation Darren finally had a happy moment. We were in the hospital together with our newborn. Darren thankfully didn’t lose the use of his arms so he was able to hold our little girl.’
Darren has now been moved to Salisbury Spinal Treatment Centre where he is doing physio, occupational therapy and learning different skills to be as independent as possible when he returns home.
His colleagues have helped raise more than £50,000 for the family since the accident and Rosie has set up a JustGiving page.
‘We have been so overwhelmed,’ Rosie says. ‘We have had complete strangers donate and even a police sergeant in America.
‘It has been incredible. We are about £50,000 short of what we will need to finish the house so we may need to apply for a loan. He is so ready to come home. We have had planning approved on an extension which will include a wet room.
‘We are putting a lift in too because the main thing for Darren is he wants to be able to put the kids to bed and give them their bath time.’
Darren has been told that a job will be made available to him once he is ready to return to work, which he is desperate to do.
The woman who kicked him was arrested and cautioned but doctors cannot say for sure whether the kick and the injury are linked.
Darren, who is a huge tennis fan and hopes to one day play in his wheelchair, sees his family most days and on the days he is alone spends time with his kids on Facetime.
‘We miss having him home so much,’ Rosie says. ‘Because of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, building work has halted so we don’t know when that will be.
‘But me and the girls are desperate for him to be back and Darren is really ready now.’
I simply want to say that I am very sorry for what happened to you.
Police Officers alas in our present society do not get the respect that they deserve.
Society has changed drastically from when I was a teenager. We didn't have a drug problem and we where able to go up to a Policeman and ask him direction's if we where lost. We felt 'secure' with Police .
I wish we could turn back the clock although folk will often pull me up and say---"They where not the good old days" But I totally disagree.
I wish you well and am sending 'positive thoughts' for you, perhaps with lots of physio and a really positive attitude yourself that things will turn around for you.
My very best wishes to you and your family, and keep the positive thoughts coming every day.
I'm sending you and your a big HUG here.